Chocolate is among the many foods that are safe for people but dangerous for dogs and cats. Chocolate can actually act as a poison for your pet.
Chocolate contains fat and sugar that can cause intestinal upset for your pet. However, even more importantly, chocolate also contains a substance known as theobromine which is a direct toxin for both dogs and cats.
The majority of chocolate poisonings are dogs. Cats tend to have less of a sweet tooth and are less likely to eat enough chocolate to become threatening. However, chocolate is toxic to cats as well if ingested.
Different types of chocolate contain differing amounts of theobromine. As a result, some types of chocolate are more toxic than other types. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it is to your pet. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate are the most dangerous.
Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
The toxic substance in chocolate, theobromine, stimulates the central nervous system and also has an effect on the heart. Symptoms seen with chocolate toxicity in both dogs and cats include:
- a rapid heart rate
- irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- increased thirst
- increased urination
Chocolate poisoning can be fatal, particularly to small dogs.
Treatment of Chocolate Toxicity
If you know or suspect that your dog or cat has eaten chocolate, you should seek veterinary care immediately. If the ingestion is recent, your veterinarian may guide you in inducing your pet to vomit or may induce vomiting for your pet once you reach the hospital.
Your veterinarian may also administer activated charcoal which helps to bind chocolate and reduce the amount of toxin that is absorbed from the stomach and intestinal tract. Your pet will need to be monitored closely over the next several days. Intravenous fluids may be initiated to help support your pet and dilute the toxicity.
How Can I Protect My Pet From Chocolate Poisoning?
While it may be tempting to share your chocolate treats with your pet, it is best to avoid the temptation. While an occasional small piece of chocolate may not pose a problem, remember that toxicity is dosage related. This means that small dogs and cats require significantly less chocolate than larger dogs to reach the toxic threshold.
Keep chocolate treats and foods off of countertops and away from your pet.